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Svenska för invandrare – Swedish for Immigrants Program Posted by on Jul 18, 2009 in Swedish Language

So, how’s your summer coming along? Having fun? I know that quite a few of you are contemplating a post-summer move to Sweden and have many questions regarding this process. I’ve already started covering some of the most basic issues, most recently – how to read apartment ads, and a while back there was a post about getting personnummer.

But the question that keeps coming back time and time again is “Once in Sweden how do I sign up for Swedish classes?”

Well, that depends on in which kommun you are going to live. Why? Different kommuner have different ways of managing their SFI programs. What’s SFI, I hear you ask? Svenska För Invandrare – Swedish for immigrants program.

So, how does it work and where do I sign up, I hear you ask?

OK, let’s take it one by one.

It works like this – All legal immigrants who have personnummer and are registered (folkbokföring) in their kommun are eligible for free Swedish classes in that kommun.

Now, because SFI works differently in different kommuner, you have to get all the details regarding those classes directly from your city office.

In some towns, SFI is a separate school and has its own teachers. In some cities the SFI program is run by Folkuniversitetet (and here you have to be careful not to get confused, because in many cities FU offers its own Swedish language classes for which you have to pay, quite much, actually), and in some places SFI is handled by Komvux (adult education school). So yeah, I can’t really tell you how it is where you’re going to live.

The quality of Swedish language instruction you will get at SFI also varies greatly from kommun to kommun. It might be excellent in one place and beyond dismal somewhere else. There are many foreigners who praise SFI and just as many who have nothing good to say about the system. So it all depends. And as in most schools, it depends on two main factors: funding and teachers. And of those two, I’d say that funding is the most important one. You can have the best teachers in the world, but they can only do so much without any money.

At some SFI schools you might be asked to buy your own books, and at others you will get a daily xeroxed handout. At some SFI schools you will have a library and a computer lab, and at others – zip, zilch, nada.

But in general, what can you expect when signing up for SFI? First, someone should check your current Swedish ability and based on that assign you to the appropriate class. Second, you’ll get put on a waiting list for that class and go home. Then, when a space becomes available, you’ll get either a letter or a phone call telling you to show up for school. But don’t trust the system, that phone call or letter may never come, if you are not being persistent. I’ve heard of people waiting patiently, only to be told months later that “Well, you never contacted us, so we thought you were no longer interested.”

In some SFIs there might not be any initial division between the levels – everybody gets more or less dumped into one big class. So you might have people who don’t know how to read and write in their mother language and people with master’s degrees from their home countries. After a few weeks, the teachers usually sort out who needs to go where.

Basically, SFI has four levels: A, B, C and D. In reality, most moderately intelligent people who know how to spell their own name start at level B, then very quickly move to level C. There is, or at least – should be, a test between levels C and D. And level D ends with a “big” national test. Don’t worry, it’s not all that hard to get to level D and pass that test. It’s not meant to get you fluent in Swedish, but merely – functional. After completing level D and passing that test, you should be able to communicate in Swedish, that’s it. It gives you the sort of communicative skills required to hold down a simple job.

If you want to, for example go to university and study in Swedish, you need to continue with your Swedish education. But we’ll cover that subject another time.

Now, if any of you have any interesting SFI stories, please, by all means, share them in the comments section!

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  1. A SFI Grad:

    I’m not sure if it works this way everywhere, but my class was also divided up into EU and Non-EU sections, and also English speakers and Non-English speakers. As a result, I ended up in a very diverse class, which made learning Swedish even more vital just to communicate with classmates.

  2. Maureen:

    I’ve been to Sweden at least 8 times now in the past 8 years and have never experienced unfriendly people. In fact it was very much the opposite of that when we visited Ange, everybody knew one another and they all waved at us when we were out in the car etc, maybe not quite so friendly in the big city due to the hectic lifestyle but certainly not unfriendly. Extremely friendly and helpful in cafes/shops and pharmacies.

  3. ann:

    I went to SFI in Malmö after taking two courses of Swedish for Beginners at Folkuniversitetet. There (at the time at least) it was an outside consultant running the school, which was very large. Classes were large and it was difficult to get any real assistance — felt more like a daycare for immigrants than any learning experience.

    Then I went to SFI in Åtvidaberg — very small classes run in the Komvux. There I was able to pass out of the first levels. My basic problems there were the lack of any certification retained by the school (when I returned from Åland there was no record of my previous accomplishments, so I was sent “back” in a way) but otherwise we lucked out with a fantastic teacher who passed me out of the upper two levels and gave me the certification to attend Swedish courses in swedish at Komvux.

    Of course, the certification was verbal, I have yet to receive any confirmation of this, and I suspect if I go back (our move to Estonia forestalled me from going forward) I will have the same problems verifying my level.

  4. Ramsey Smith:

    Interesting to see a grading system that “A” is not the top level, and that a D is a good thing. I guess it is clever since you could add E, F and G as college grade levels?

  5. Sheila Craig:

    Hej! I have just discovered your blog and I am really enjoying it. We retired to Sweden four years ago from England to be near to my daughter, who is married to a Swede.
    Just one thing I would like to add to your advice for people considering a move to Sweden, the language courses are not available to people over retirement age, I know as I have tried all ways to get on such a course. Have found free courses run by the Red Cross, otherwise I have had to pay for all the ones i have attended. Expensive and very poor in some cases.
    I share your feelings about passers by not offering a greeting. I too think this is so strange.
    We are not looking for an involved conversation just a little smile would do wonders.
    Thanks again for your Blog. It is great!

  6. Alexandra:

    Hej ! Jag heter Alexandra, och jag har 26 ar. Jag pratar bara lite gran svenska.Jag ar rumenska.Jag ticker om att lara och lasa svenska! Jag skulle vilja prata med nogon…flickor eller pojkar. hej da

  7. Sheila Craig:

    I understand that there is a radio programme broadcast in ‘simple Swedish’ is this correct and if so how do I find it?

  8. Shamim Ara Begum:

    http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/p4/kanalarkiv.asp?ProgramId….go to the website and listen to “Klartext”….the news in simple Swedish.

  9. Nnamdi felix:

    I am a student at linköping universit.please,would mind forward to me the office address and web address of kommun.I will like to learn swedish language.Thanks.

  10. Adam Kupsky:

    I studied in SFI 3 years ago. Now I am writing my thesis about Swedish educational system for migrants. I have a questionnaire which focuses on SFI. Could you please fill in th equestionnaire, it would help me a lot.

    Thank you very much.

  11. Mary:

    Hejsan, do you have any idea how these SFI levels correspond to the CEF levels…I found one online and I wanted to be sure about what I am doing.

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